Zoonotic viruses are viruses that are transmitted from one species to another. In our homocentric world, these are viruses that transmit disease from animals to man. At the Smithsonian now, there is an exhibit that covers these diseases. It was created to commemorate the hundreth anniversary of the Great Influenza pandemic of 1918 that killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, before it was done. This exhibit is still up, as we face the threat of a new epidemic.
Zoonotic viruses are some of the most deadly viruses known to man. Examples include Smallpox, Yellow Fever, Rabies, Ebola and HIV. While all of them can be deadly, of particular fear are the airborne ones, because they can most easily be spread. Influenza is the perennial king of these maladies. Reoccurring every year and killing 40 million Americans annually. Called coronaviruses, due to the crown-like array of appendages that dot their outer surface, members of this family of viruses are known by many names, SARS, MERS, Swine and Bird flu.
A new virus has appeared this year that is so new that it has been identified only by the family name, Novel Coronavirus. It originated in China and not enough is known about it yet. SARS also came from China, but was accompanied by a cover-up that has sown doubt and fear about the handling of this new disease. This week, fear was manifested, when stock markets tumbled over concerns, but that fear was mainly about Chinese quarantine effects on the global economy.
It remains to be seen how dangerous the Coronavirus will be. It is too soon to tell. Not enough is known yet, but it may be too late, before the story is clear. Don’t panic. Wear a surgical mask if you want, but wash your hands frequently.